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THE TURKISH ARMY AS A TURKISH INSTITUTION

The early Turkish states were based on two basic institutions - the family and the army. The army constituted both the basis of the Turkish states and their power source. It was the strength of the army of the various Turkish states that made it possible to establish their rule over long periods of time and over various people in Asia, and later in Europe and Africa.

The Turks did not regard the military as a specific occupation. All were trained as soldiers and almost all Turks were warriors. In other words, the people were the army and the army was the people, as the populace would become an army during the wartime. The head commander of the army was the "khagan." The members of the ruling dynasty and the heads of the kin tribes formed the command council of the army. The army consisted largely of cavalrymen, usually divided into four groups (east, west, south and north on the battle field), while being denoted by the color of their horses.  The four groups would be further broken down into smaller and smaller units for command and control - the largest being the "tümen," of 10,000 men. Within the tümen were formatıons of thousands, hundreds, and tens - with these troops led by the tümenbaşı, binbaşı, yüzbaşı, and onbaşı, respectively. This organizational structure has survived over 22 centuries since the time of the great Hun ruler Mao-Tun, son of Ulu Hatun (209-174BC). His army, while engaging the Chinese army at Peteng, had 400,000 cavalrymen with 100,000 each of the black horsemen in the north, the white horsemen in the west, the dark red horsemen in the south, and the gray horsemen in the east.

The Turkish warrior would begin his training during childhood. Children between the ages of three and four had special saddles to be able to ride horses. Later in their training, they would sharpen their archery skills while riding. On horseback, the bow was carried by hanging it on the shoulder just like a sack. Some of the close fighting weapons found in the old Turkish graves included: the short sword (mech), the spear (kargi or sungug), the short spear (kachut), the knife and the dagger (bugde/bugte), the ball (gurz or topuz), the whip (berge) and the lasso (ukruk). Of these, the sword was the most commonly used. The sword would not be worn in plain view, but rather within a pack called "kin". The pack was hung from the belt with a ring on the left side of the warrior. There were also defensive weapons made from leather, wood and iron. Among them were the shield (tura), the armor (yarik), and the helmet (tulga/yasuk/asuk).

The Turkish system of war was based on action and speed, utilized through the strong horsemanship skills of the cavalry. The troops would often separate and unite with complete freedom of movement during the battle. They would scream during the attack to intimidate, fake a withdrawal to confuse the enemy, then conclude with trapping and completely destroying the enemy.

Reference: "The State Tradition and Organization among Ancient Turks", Prof.Dr.Salim Koca, The Turks, Vol.1, 2002.

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